Smashwords authors can now add enhanced navigation to their ebooks with linked, clickable ToCs.
This is good news for our 4,992 authors (we should reach 5,000+ by tonight or tomorrow!) and their 10,943 books.
The lack of live ToC support has been one of the biggest, most glaring holes at Smashwords ever since we launched two years ago.
For fiction, it was a tolerable omission for most readers because people read fiction serially, from word one forward. For our non-fiction authors, it was more problematic because readers interact differently with non-fiction. For some non fiction, navigation is essential to the reading experience.
The newly updated Smashwords Style Guide, which now sports a sporty ToC of its own, went live this afternoon with step by step instructions.
Special thanks to Smashwords author Cheryl Anne Gardner for volunteering the fancy finger work to test different approaches for creating ToCs. Cheryl Anne sent me some some great step-by-step notes which I incorporated directly into the Style Guide along with some additional tips from own my testing.
Turns out our Meatgrinder has supported ToCs for at least a couple months. We didn't make any deliberate changes to Meatgrinder to support this. It's possible the support arrived serendipitously in the last few months when we started doing a series of Meatgrinder conversion blade upgrades.
The secret to good intra-ebook hyperlinking with Smashwords lies in using Word's bookmark feature. As Captain Kirk might say, we're boldly taking Microsoft Word where it has never gone before.
I tested the new Style Guide with Stanza on my iPhone (screen shot at left) and the ToC works well. You just tap your finger down for about a second until the link turns yellow, then you lift your finger and it jumps to your page.
I also see we're supporting forced page breaks in front of Headers. This is another feature I didn't know we supported until a Smashwords author blogged about it or told me about it, I forget which. I'm always learning from you guys.
Although I haven't tested this yet, the bookmarks can also be used to create fully linkable footnotes, endnotes and indexes.
The addition of navigation gets us one step closer to completing our integration with Amazon so Smashwords books can be distributed directly into the Kindle store. We've incorporated other recent changes too, such as new guidance in the Style Guide to help authors do better first line paragraph indents and construct better block paragraphs. These changes not only accommodate Amazon but will also improve the overall formatting quality of our books.